Monday, June 20, 2011

The Kitchen God's Wife

Erika chose The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan for book club this month.  It is the story of Winnie, a Chinese born woman, as she tells it to her American-born daughter Pearl of her life in China in the 1930s and 40s.  It is wonderful and heartbreaking all at the same time.  Another story of the oppression of women for our book club, but this one, at least to me, was so much more terrible.  The things that Winnie lived through and overcame are both amazing and horrifying.  Just when you thought it couldn't get worse, it did.  But as she tells the story she warns Pearl that it will get worse, so although you are prepared - it's still terrible.  But among the tragedy there is such a sweet love story between Winnie and Pearl's father Jimmy - when you finally get to it.  As well as the bond between mother and daughter, that grows through the telling of the story.

Everyone in the book club enjoyed it and we talked a lot about the hardships they experienced, and how eye-opening it was read about the war from the Chinese perspective.  I also found this book interesting because I had read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See which is about women in 19th century China, when girl's feet were bound and feudal marriages where the only way.  And then comparing that to The Kitchen God's Wife and how they were moving away from feudal marriages especially after the war, and then on to thinking about how China is today.  It's just fascinating to me to think about so much change in a relatively short amount of time.  But despite the changes, and despite the fact that Winnie was a radical in so many ways, she still loves and embraces her customs and culture and teaches them to her children.

Although I struggled through the first chapter that was in Pearl's point of view, as soon as Winnie was telling her story I was hooked and I really enjoyed the rest of the book.  And in the end when the book returns to Pearl's point of view I liked her better, because I think hearing her mother's story made her a more likable, relatable person.  I think it was a great book for book club and would readily recommend it to others.  I haven't read anything else by Amy Tan but I heard that The Joy Luck Club is better, so I will have to read that one sometime.

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